BARBERTON — Barberton plans to lay off city employees in an effort to close a projected $4 million gap in the city’s annual budget this year, city officials announced Tuesday.
Barberton Mayor Bill Judge said in a news release the city has "no choice" but to reduce the number of employees, as employee costs are the largest expenditure in the city's budget. Judge also cited current collective bargaining agreements as a reason for the reduction in workforce.
“The move to lay off good, hard-working people I know and respect is the last thing I ever want to do, and is not a decision that was taken lightly,” Judge said in the news release, which does not specify how many employees will be laid off.
Factors listed in the news release as contributing to the city's deficit include the loss of $1.5 million in local government funding from the state, the continued rising costs of day-to-day operations, the loss of $1.3 million in lost income tax revenue as Babcock & Wilcox relocates its 600 employees to Akron later this year and a carry-over of last year’s $800,000 deficit.
Judge has sought concessions from the city’s four bargaining unions, asking union workers to give back raises and go without some benefits, such as uniform allowances and tuition reimbursements.
Rick Schwenning, head of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 329, previously told the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com the union isn’t interested in providing concessions and suggested the Barberton Community Foundation step in to help the city.
Judge, who serves on the foundation board of directors, said the foundation's regulations and policies "prohibit the use of their funds for City personnel or operating costs." He said he's "still willing to discuss alternatives" to avoid or reduce the number of layoffs, "but our bargaining units need to consider some concessions, which they’ve rejected to this point."
Cuts in services are also possible.
"We want to continue to provide comprehensive city services to our community, but we must look at all of our options to erase this deficit," Judge said in the news release.
The city is now operating on a temporary budget, and the mayor will present a final spending plan to city council next month. The city is required to finalize its 2019 budget by March 31.
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.